Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
A Boing Boing post last week featured book sculptor Brian Dettmer’s work. It got me thinking about another artist, Jose Dávila. I came across Dávila’s work while researching criticism of Rem Koolhaas’ mega-book S,M,L,XL. When Koolhaas created S,M,L,XL, he encouraged criticism of the publication as vulgar and confusing; that was the point. Nonetheless, the book was often written off as extravagant and empty.
Dávila was one of the more offended critics. His reaction to the book involved its destruction for the purpose of his art. As an artist fascinated with the political conceptual art of the 60s and 70s, his work sought emphemerality, was site-specific and irreproducible. Dávila was convinced that theories of dematerialization were best conveyed not in the creation of books, but in their demolition. For a project, he sliced S,M,L,XL into four pieces, each ranging in size from small, medium, large and extra-large pieces. Taking S,M,L,XL as the quintessence of the state of the art book publishing, Dávila conveyed his discontent by rendering the book useless as anything but a sculptural object.
To him, even intact, the big books of art and architecture were unable to achieve a non-sculptural importance as the books were “expensive, over-designed publications that are usually entirely devoid of content.” This reception of S,M,L,XL is troubling because Dávila construes the wealth of content in the book (which could even be considered as too much) as nothing. While he has duly noted that the image rich publications like those of Koolhaas and Bruce Mau (graphic designer and co-author of S,M,L,XL) “sacrifice readability for the sake of flashing design, he neglects to engage the compromised readability for a productive result. Complicated doesn’t always equal unusable.
Dávila cannot counterbalance the book’s artistic merit with its role as commodified object. In referring to the book as an unreadable prop, he is basically refusing to consider anything other than the black text on white paper in non-descript covers as books. S,M,L,XL is a legitimate manifesto, and the hallmark essay “Bigness” is frequently cited in architecture and urban planning texts. Part of the brilliance of S,M,L,XL and certainly integral in its success is the harmonious embodiment of aesthetic object and useful object. And because many critics encountered an entirely new and not readily understandable form in S,M,L,XL, their reactions only scratched the surface of the work’s complexities.
Carolyn Kellog, blogger at Jacket Copy, thinks that e-books will affect cover designs. What do you think?
No one really buys CDs anymore, so it’s not that far-fetched to assume that album covers aren’t as important as they used to be.
What should we expect from cover designs these days?
I’ve already mulled over the future of books. But what about book reviews? Some newspapers have cut book reviews from their print editions. The LA Times now maintains a web-only book review presence. Book editor David Ulin, the man in charge of the LA Times book website (Jacket Copy), takes an optimistic and open approach to the future of the book review. Jacket Copy has a large following, proving that the demand for a more interactive book culture exists.
In this article from Publisher’s Weekly, Ulin addresses an interesting point. Are we being too conservative about the future of books?
“One of the things that worries me about the book culture is the notion that all change is bad. This is much more conservative than I would have thought,” he says. Certain comments about the recent collapse of the Washington Post‘s Book World don’t sit well with him. “People are saying, ‘reading is dead!’ I finally ordered a Kindle and have to wait eight weeks for it, which indicates that reports of reading’s demise are greatly exaggerated. Will I lament the loss of Book World? Of course I will—but let’s think about what is viable now.”
Admittedly, I’m not exactly heralding the future of books. But I’m scared and unhappy with the direction that things have been going in (eh-hem KINDLE).
While I’m dubious at times, people who are hopeful and confident about the future of printed publications provide some comfort. Certainly, we need some optimists among us skeptics!
More proof that if you’re in the market for an audio book, the Kindle’s text-to-speech feature isn’t going to cut it.
From the new Jimmy Fallon show
A few days ago, I was trying to explain to a friend how important it is for print media to capitalize on the object-ness of books and magazines. Since it’s sometimes better to show than tell, I decided that I should use Rem Koolhaas’ Content (2004) as a prime example of what makes printed publications so great. Unfortunately, it is no longer in print and a new copy costs $120.00. It’s a shame that these books become commodities and rarities. They need to be available; they demonstrate the broad scope of architecture and invite individual experiences created by the reader. Unlike reading information on a screen, interacting with the book can be different for each person.
News about Amazon’s launch of the redesigned Kindle 2 was met with generally triumphant praise. It’s sleeker, faster and better than its predecessor. In theory, the Kindle is a great product. We love our iPhones and Blackberries, mostly because we need (or want?) to receive, read and send emails instantly. This same desire for supreme portability and instant gratification has only naturally migrated towards our reading habits. But should we be concerned? Are we eradicating books?